Turkey may give Saudi Yemen operation 'logistical' support: Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the National Palace in Mexico City on February 12, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez)

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkey could provide "logistical" support for Saudi Arabia's operation against Iran-allied Huthi rebels in Yemen, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday, slamming Tehran's involvement in the region.

"We support Saudi Arabia's intervention," Erdogan told France 24 in an interview.

"Turkey may consider providing logistical support based on the evolution of the situation," he added, without giving further details.

Warplanes from a Saudi-led Arab coalition bombed the Huthi Shiite rebels on Thursday, in an operation slammed by Shiite Iran as a military aggression.

Erdogan said "Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw" from Yemen. Sunni-majority Saudi fears Yemen risks falling into the orbit of its arch-rival Iran.

The Turkish leader indicated suspicion of Iran's role in the region, saying its involvement in the campaign against Islamic State (IS) rebels in Iraq was aimed at replacing them.

"The aim of Iran is to increase its influence in Iraq," said Erdogan.

"Iran is trying to chase Daesh from the region only to take its place," he added, using the Arabic acronym for the group.

Turkey has sometimes been accused of providing tacit and even more concrete support to IS, claims it vehemently denies.

Erdogan said IS was a "terrorist group" and "has nothing to do with Islam and it is not a state".

He reaffirmed his opinion that a ground intervention, likely involving Syrian rebels opposing President Bashar al-Assad, would be needed to overcome IS.

"I have already said that I find the coalition air strikes to be insufficient," he said.

Erdogan's relations with Saudi Arabia chilled over Riyadh's role in the 2013 ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Ankara.

However Erdogan in late February made the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and then went on to hold talks with new King Salman, in what observers saw as a cautious rapprochement with Riyadh.